32Red has been slapped with a £2m fine by the gambling watchdog for failing to protect a vulnerable customer and carry out proper money laundering checks.
The Gambling Commission investigated the online betting firm’s dealings with a customer who was allowed to deposit £758,000 between November 2014 and April last year without being subject to proper controls.
There were “at least 22 incidents which indicated the customer was a problem gambler – but instead of checking if they needed help, 32Red gave them free bonuses”, the watchdog said.
It said the customer had admitted to staff that they had spent too much, “displaying frustration and chasing losses”, but the signs went unchecked.
The watchdog also found the firm failed to check if the customer could afford what they were spending on the site.
Gambling Commission executive director Richard Watson said: “Instead of checking on the welfare of a customer displaying problem gambling behaviour, 32Red encouraged the customer to gamble more – this is the exact opposite of what they are supposed to be doing.
“Operators must take action when they spot signs of problem gambling and should be carefully reviewing all the customers they are having a high level of contact with.
“Protecting consumers from gambling-related harm is a priority for us and where we see operators failing in their responsibility to keep their customers safe we will take tough action.”
Swedish firm Kindred – which last year snapped up 32Red in a £175.6m deal – accepted the penalty.
It highlighted initiatives including the use of behaviour monitoring systems, but conceded “work remains to be done”.
“Kindred remains committed to ensuring customers can enjoy gambling in a safe and secure environment,” it said.
The fine comes after the Government last month announced plans to cut the maximum amount people can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2 to meant to protect vulnerable consumers.
That was alongside plans to toughen up online protections, such as introducing stronger age verification rules and affordability checks.
Brexit is a “failure” of the European Union and has “opened its eyes to reform”, one of Brussels’s top politicians has admitted.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said Britain’s decision to quit the bloc made it “difficult” to call the project a “success”.
“I still look to the Brexit decision as a failure of the EU,” he told an influential committee of MPs in Westminster on Wednesday.
“Because if an important country like the UK is breaking away from the EU it’s difficult to say, ‘Oh it’s a success, fantastic.’
“I don’t look at the outcome of the referendum in that way – I think it’s a failure.”
Mr Verhofstadt, who leads the liberal bloc of MEPs, insisted Brexit had sparked more debate about reforming the EU than “ever before”.
“What we have seen in the continent – if I may say so – is that after Brexit, the European project regained popularity.
“In the sense of, ‘Okay – maybe there are a lot of things that don’t work very well in the EU, but to break away, maybe that’s not the right solution.’
“So in that sense, since Brexit there has been more debate on reform of the EU than we ever got before. That’s caused by Brexit.
“But I still find the fact that Britain is going out of the EU a bad thing for Europe, for Britain, and I think for everybody.”
His comments come amid major disruption in Brussels following the election of a populist government in Italy and open criticism of the EU’s response to the migration crisis from Hungary.
Mr Verhofstadt also said there had to be a Brexit deal in place by the end of the year if MEPs are to vote on it before the expected departure date – 29 March 2019.
The European Parliament must approve the agreement for it to pass.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s preferred “customs partnership” idea was rejected by Mr Verhofstadt, and he added he was “sceptical” about the “MaxFac” scheme.
MPs are set for a showdown later on Wednesday, as Mrs May aims to defeat her rebel backbenchers’ bid to have the final say on whatever deal is agreed.
Several Labour Brexiteers are expected to vote with the government.
On Tuesday, Brexit Secretary David Davis posted a picture of himself with Mr Verhofstadt on Twitter.
“Pleased to see Guy Verhofstadt in London this evening – we discussed the good progress that has been made since March and our shared, ongoing commitment to getting a deal that works for both the UK and the EU,” he wrote.
Paedophile football coach Barry Bennell has lost an appeal against his 30-year sentence for multiple child sex offences.
Bennell, 64, took his case to the Court of Appeal in the hope of a shorter sentence.
But three judges upheld his 30-year term, which was handed down by Liverpool Crown Court for 52 offences committed against 12 boys between 1979 and 1991.
His appeal was registered under his new name, Richard Jones.
His case was dismissed, with Lady Justice Hallett telling him: “This was a campaign, or several campaigns, of rape on a huge scale.
“The appellant committed a vast number of sexual offences, some of them of the most serious kind.
“He preyed sexually on young boys in his care, his offending amounted to a gross abuse of the trust placed in him – by the victims themselves, by their families and by the clubs that employed him.
“The consequences for the victims and their families were appalling.
“The sentence was severe, particularly when he has already served three prison sentences for similar offending.
“But in our judgment the offences were so serious, the timescale so extended, the aggravating factors so numerous and the mitigation so limited, that it would be wrong for this court to interfere with the sentence.”
She also recounted details which had been heard during his trial, referencing how Bennell described himself as “manipulative, cunning and even predatory” in his own police interview.
She added that he had abused the boys when they were aged eight to 14. After 1992, he moved to the US to be a football coach, and continued his abuse there.
She said his victims suffered throughout their lives with depression, alcoholism and suicidal thoughts, and it had impacted their families.
Lady Justice Hallett told him his sentence was not “manifestly excessive or wrong in principle”.
The former coach is being treated for cancer, and is being fed through a drip in prison. He regularly has to go out for outpatient appointments.
Bennell watched from prison via a video link.
Bennell was imprisoned in February after he was found guilty of the offences during a six-week trial. The court heard he committed “industrial scale” levels of abuse against boys in his care.
His victims talked about the “power hold” he had over them as the coach of Crewe Alexandra and as a Manchester City scout, as they dreamed of becoming professional football players.
Judge Clement Goldstone labelled him “the devil incarnate” when he told him he would serve half his sentence in prison and half of licence.
Republicans are scrambling to draft a bill to address the growing outcry over the policy of separating migrant families at the US-Mexico border.
President Donald Trump told a group of House Republicans he would back any immigration bill they passed, a White House spokesman said.
The Republican-controlled Congress is under pressure to change the policy, following widespread condemnation.
But the president says it is necessary to stop illegal border crossings.
“We had a great meeting,” Mr Trump said after seeing Republican lawmakers on Tuesday.
It is unclear if any progress was made but White House spokesman Raj Shah said Mr Trump had told the group he would endorse their immigration legislation.
The president made clear that separating parents and children was “certainly not an attractive thing and does look bad”, Representative Tom Cole said.
Earlier on Tuesday Mr Trump said children had to be taken away if their parents were jailed for illegally crossing the US border.
“When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally – which should happen – you have to take the children away,” he said.
US immigration officials say 2,342 children were separated from 2,206 parents between 5 May and 9 June amid a “zero-tolerance” crackdown on illegal immigration brought in by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Babies and toddlers have been sent to three “tender age” shelters after being separated from their parents, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Doctors and lawyers who visited the shelters described the infants as hysterical, crying, and acting out, according to the AP report.
What’s the latest reaction?
In an interview with Reuters news agency, Pope Francis said he supported recent statements by US Catholic bishops who called the policy “contrary to our Catholic values” and “immoral”.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso said family separations were “cruel and inhuman”, and clearly violated human rights.
The US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, two leading business groups, said the policy was “contrary to American values”.
Governors from at least eight US states – including two Republicans – have reversed their decision to send National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border.
A new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll suggests that most Americans oppose the policy, with only 28% supporting it.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who in the past has praised Mr Trump’s policy of curbing immigration, told French TV that she disagreed with splitting children from parents.
What is the policy?
Under the “zero-tolerance” approach unveiled in May, all undocumented border crossers are criminally charged and jailed.
Migrant children cannot be held with their parents, and are kept in separate facilities maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Under previous US administrations, undocumented immigrants caught crossing the border for the first time tended to be issued with court summonses.
But the Trump administration points out that most of those migrants never showed up for court.
The White House has been disputing the terminology used to describe its crackdown.
It describes the holding centres where children have been pictured in metal chain-link enclosures with concrete floors as “shelters” instead of “cages”.
What are Trump and lawmakers doing?
The House of Representatives is preparing this week to vote on a moderate immigration bill.
The compromise would limit, but not ban outright, family separations. It would also offer an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented adult immigrants, known as Dreamers, who entered the US as children.
The Republican legislation would also provide $25bn (£19bn) in funding for border security, including Mr Trump’s planned US-Mexico wall.
Mixed messages on US migrant policy
House Republicans were reportedly working on a revised plan that would mean children would be detained for longer than is currently allowed but kept with their parents, the Associated Press reports.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said he “hoped to reach out to the Democrats” about crafting a bipartisan deal. However Democrats argue that no congressional action is required and the president can simply reverse his own policy.
More on US immigration
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A shortage of CO2 could take the fizz out of beer and other sparkling drinks this summer, just as the World Cup and barbecue season get under way.
The UK has only two plants producing carbon dioxide and one is closed for maintenance, threatening to leave drinks makers high and dry.
“It’s already stopping production,” said Brigid Simmonds, head of the British Beer and Pub Association.
She has written to CO2 producers asking them to rectify the situation.
Demand for beer and fizzy drinks is peaking as fans gather to watch the football, thanks to the recent run of hot weather.
Carbon dioxide doesn’t just put the fizz into soft drinks, canned and bottled beers. It also delivers beer at the pub pumps and is additionally used to pack fresh meat and salads.
It comes from ammonia plants that manufacture fertiliser. But as demand for fertiliser peaks in winter, manufacturers often shut down during the summer for maintenance work.
Currently at least five CO2 producers across northern Europe are offline for maintenance, according to trade publication Gasworld, which first reported the issue.
Gasworld said carbonated drinks producers were now “desperate” amid the worst CO2 supply crisis for decades.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs, said the CO2 shortage was beginning to cause stoppages in beer production, although it did not name specific companies.
As much as 82% of beer consumed in the UK is produced here, requiring carbon dioxide. Ms Simmonds said.
She said she had written to CO2 suppliers and one producer had said it would be able to get limited production back on stream at the beginning of July.
“You could have foreseen this. We’ve got the World Cup, which is as exciting in Germany as it is here,” said Ms Simmonds
“Quite why they didn’t anticipate this, I don’t know.”
The BBPA has also issued some guidance to its members reminding them that CO2 used in drinks, including for dispensing beer at the pumps, must be food grade CO2.
“We’d be concerned this is not the time to go looking for a white van man who says they can supply you with CO2,” she said.
Gavin Partington, director general at the British Soft Drinks Association, said soft drinks producers were “taking active steps to maintain their service to customers”.
He said that also included working with their suppliers and looking at alternative sources of CO2.
The UK is particularly hard hit by the shortages, according to Gasworld, because only one major CO2 plant is still operating and imports from the European mainland have been affected by shutdowns in northern Europe.
The UK is a large market for carbon dioxide and imports about a third of its CO2 needs. It has a vast range of applications in industry, with one of the main uses being the manufacture of dry ice to chill airline meals.
The UK has a total of seven plants that produce CO2, but three of the four largest are currently down for maintenance or technical reasons.
Gasworld said the heatwave in May had boosted demand for fizzy drinks across northern Europe at a time when ammonia plants producing CO2 as a by-product were closed. The current low price of ammonia meant producers were not restarting production quickly.
Carbon dioxide production also comes from bioethanol plants, and as a by-product from whisky distilleries in Scotland. But these tend to be on a smaller scale and one UK bioethanol plant is also currently closed.
While there were ready supplies of carbon dioxide in southern Europe, including Hungary and Romania, transporting it to northern Europe required specialist pressurised transport, Gas World said.
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) also said it was “very concerned” about the shortage, as CO2 is used in packing fresh meat and salads.
BMPA deputy director Fiona Steiger said that as far as they were aware, no producers had stopped production.
“Supply is running out and it’s pretty tight for some people. Others hope to be able to see it out,” she said.
“We don’t know when supplies will be back up. We’ve been told it could be about a month.”
She said the BMPA was asking officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to prioritise meat producers when finding back-up supplies of CO2.
Beijing doesn’t appear to be backing down either, and it could use regulations to make life harder for U.S. companies in China. But things aren’t yet bad enough for it to unleash its trade nuclear weapon: a threat to stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds.
Elsewhere in trade news: The Kochs’ political network will run ads against the Trump tariffs on conservative talk radio.
G.E. will leave the Dow after 111 years. There’s an upside.
After two world wars, the Great Depression and a global financial crisis, G.E. — the last remaining original component of the Dow Jones industrial average — will finally fall off the stock market index.
The reason? Its shares have fallen too far. The drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance will replace it.
Brooke Sutherland of Bloomberg Opinion argues this could free G.E.’s chief, John Flannery, to take the big steps required to fix the troubled industrial conglomerate:
I don’t think it’s a good thing that G.E. was dropped from the Dow, but it’s one less shackle to the past that might discourage Flannery from undertaking a complete top-to-down rethinking of its identity.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund may be in too much of a hurry
The FT took a look at the nearly $100 billion technology investment fund, whose enormous coffers and bold bets have transformed private equity. It found a highly aggressive team pushed to strike as many deals as possible, as fast as possible.
What an unnamed person who has worked with the fund told the FT:
The setup seems to be made for maximum speed. There is just such an urgency to get deals done. There is really fierce competition between the different teams, everything is moving incredibly fast.
That person’s potentially worrying payoff: “There aren’t the sort of systems in place that you might expect to formalize it all.”
A big question: The fund’s huge investments make for impressive headlines. But will its haste lead it into bad blockbuster deals?
Continue reading the main story
In other Vision Fund news: SoftBank will reportedly put in $5 billion of employee money to reach its goal of $100 billion in assets.
Why a video push makes sense for Instagram
This afternoon at 1 p.m. Eastern, the image-sharing social network plans to make a major announcement. TechCrunch reports that the event could be about video features, including allowing users to post longer clips and a new video hub. Instagram would then become more of a competitor to YouTube (and to some extent to its owner, Facebook).
Why make that move? DealBook has some data from eMarketer that spells out the opportunity:
• Video is a big part of advertising, making up 17 percent of American digital ad spending.
• People are watching way more of it. The average U.S. adult likely will watch 24 minutes of video a day on a smartphone in 2018.
• Video ad spending is going to grow — fast. Mobile video ad spending in the U.S. will grow nearly 25 percent this year, to $7.87 billion.
• Unlike Facebook, Instagram is still growing quickly. Its user base is expected to increase by 13 percent this year.
Goldman Sachs, which rarely brings in outsiders to lead important businesses, has hired Wei Cai from FountainVest as its co-head of investment banking in China. (FT)
Walt Disney named Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter as its chief creative officers. She will lead its animation studios; he, Pixar. (NYT)
Booz Allen Hamilton has hired Stephen Labaton as its executive vice president for corporate affairs.
The speed read
Continue reading the main story
• The British government formally cleared the way for 21st Century Fox to continue its pursuit of the satellite broadcaster Sky. A bidding war is now open. (WSJ)
• Endemol Shine, the production company partly owned by Fox whose shows include “Black Mirror,” has reportedly hired Deutsche Bank and LionTree to explore a sale. (CNBC)
• AT&T is said to be in talks to buy AppNexus, an ad tech company, for $1.6 billion to bolster its targeted advertising after buying Time Warner. (WSJ)
• A recent paper by the I.M.F. found that corporate consolidation hurts innovation and worker pay. (WSJ)
• Joseph Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff, will step down next month amid questions about his loyalty to President Trump. (NYT)
• House Republicans proposed a way to balance the federal budget: make the big cuts to Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Trump said he wouldn’t allow. (WaPo)
• Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain faces a big test today as her government seeks to defeat an effort to give Parliament a “meaningful vote” on Brexit. (Guardian)
• Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile said they would stop selling location details to data brokers. (NYT)
Continue reading the main story
• Amazon investors have urged the company not to sell facial recognition technology to police forces. (DealBook)
• The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded its 10 millionth patent. (The Verge)
• The Chinese device maker Huawei is squaring up for a fight with Australia. (NYT)
• How tech companies conquered America’s cities. (NYT)
Best of the rest
• As the economy improves and requirements tighten, far fewer people are applying for disability benefits. (NYT)
• Greece is preparing to end its last bailout from the E.U. Creditors want to ensure it doesn’t get into trouble again — but now they face troubles elsewhere. (NYT)
• An in-depth investigation into OneTaste, an “orgasmic meditation” start-up accused of being a cult. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
• A McKinsey retirement fund held investments in six companies where the consulting firm was an adviser. (WSJ)
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Brexit could take as long as two decades to get EU approval unless the two sides agree a “precise” blueprint in October, Guy Verhofstadt has said.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator wants the UK to have an “association agreement” with the EU.
He told the UK MPs’ Brexit committee he wanted to see clear details of how that would work in the Autumn.
If there was room for misunderstanding it could take a long time for the EU to ratify it, he warned.
The EU and UK are hoping to publish the final withdrawal agreement and a political statement on future relations in October or November so it can be voted on by MPs at Westminster and MEPs in the European Parliament.
Mr Verhofstadt said the agreement had to be published by the end of 2018 at the latest, to give the European Parliament enough time to ratify before the UK formally leaves the EU in March.
He said it would take the entire two-year transition period, which is due to kick in after Brexit on 29 March 2019, to sort out the details of future trading relations between the EU and UK.
But he warned MPs that it would take a lot longer if the political statement published in the autumn was not clear enough about what kind of relationship the EU was going to have with the UK.
The advantage of an association agreement, he argued, was that it would be a flexible framework, allowing for a “very narrow” relationship based on trade alone, or a “very broad” relationship.
And it would avoid the prospect of an “inflation of agreements between the EU and the UK” in a lot of different areas as the two sides hammered out their differences during the transition period.
If, he told the MPs, “this whole bunch of agreements will be put in the ratification machine of the European Union, including the member states, we are going to be in ratification – and in uncertainty – for more than one decade, even two decades”.
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Your guide to Brexit jargon
The European Parliament set out details of what it means by an “association agreement” – something the EU normally signs with aspiring member countries such as Ukraine – in a draft resolution in March.
It would open the door to continued cooperation with some EU institutions, although Mr Verhofstadt said the UK would still have to be kicked out schemes such as the European Arrest Warrant and the Galileo satellite navigation system when it became a “third country” outside the EU.
UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said last month he had no “intrinsic objection” to an “association agreement” but it “depends what’s in it”, adding that he would not accept the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Mr Verhofstadt, who is also due to give evidence later to the Home Affairs Committee, said Brexit had increased the “popularity” of the EU in other member states and that it had reignited debate about reform of its institutions.
He said he was looking forward to the UK government’s Brexit White Paper, which he hoped would give more details about how to resolve sticking points such as the Irish border and ECJ membership.
“I think that is it still possible to have for October/November an agreement on the political declaration. For that we need to speed up, certainly the negotiations in the coming months.”
More than 450 patients died after being given powerful painkillers inappropriately at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, a report has found.
An independent panel said, taking into account missing records, a further 200 patients may have suffered a similar fate.
The report found there was a “disregard for human life” of a large number of patients from 1989 to 2000.
Dr Jane Barton was responsible for prescribing painkillers over 12 years.
There was an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering “dangerous” amounts of a medication not clinically justified, the report said.
NHS ‘closed ranks’ over hospital deaths
Reaction to hospital deaths report
Former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, who led Gosport Independent Panel, said: “The documents seen by the panel show that for a 12-year period a clinical assistant, Dr Barton, was responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards.
“Although the consultants were not involved directly in treating patients on the wards, the medical records show that they were aware of how drugs were prescribed and administered but did not intervene to stop the practice.”
Relatives had said they hoped the findings of the report would end their “harrowing” wait for answers.